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Sleight Of Hand Records SOHR1702CD

James Patrick Gavin hails from North London and is an acclaimed multi-instrumentalist and composer with musical and family roots running from Northern Ireland to the Basque Country. A fiddle and mandolin player, and a tune writer of some considerable creative merit, James can be found amongst the ranks of ensembles such as the London-based trio, Teyr, and also The Rad Orchestra - all these diverse influences fuel his debut solo album, Chewing The Fat.

He has been lucky enough to be steeped in Irish music and stylistically his music is somewhere between Martin Hayes and Kevin Burke, equally sprightly and reflective. FRUK described his guitar and fiddle style as “magnificent in its irreverence”. This description neatly sums up his approach as he likes to spice up tune sets with sudden left turns that defy categorisation (as on Mena’s Teapot where 360 degree turns are centre, as is a taped conversation with his grandmother who hailed from Co Fermanagh). She is also sampled in The Lark In The Clear Air, sensitively delivered vocally by J Eoin. Indeed a thread of continuity is maintained with referenced samples of his grandmother describing various aspects of country life in The Old Keady Dog, while the fiddle/accordion work recalls Lau and Boholla in their restrained explorative settings with devilish fire beneath the velvet. Lady O’Dreams describes the characters that populated The Lady Owen Arms in Angel to a variant of The Limerick Rake, and Ewan MacColl’s elegiac The Joy Of Living, sung by Jez Hellard, has a muted earthy vocal allied to a semi chamber backing. Chewing The Fat is at once an elegy to a bygone life, a derring-do collection of traditionally rooted yet colourfully jagged tunes, and some elegant airs sensitively delivered. It’s a rich and sonorous feast worth locking horns with.

John O’Regan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 124 of The Living Tradition magazine.